Litigation lawyer on weekdays, and a musician on weekends, Yuvraj Khanna is a busy 23-year-old. Between High Court appearances and playing the drums with his band Chaos in the Capital, Khanna also manages to make time for his other passion: the passage of time.
"I’ve always been curious how the city has changed over the centuries,” he said. “New Delhi, as we know it, is the 11th city of Delhi. As a result, history is always a stone's throw away here.”
At some point, the lanky lawyer began to source old images of the national capital – he wanted to do something that would capture the ways in which the city had changed, but that was different from the before-and-after images freely available online.
"I shortlisted around fifty photographs and had them printed," said Khanna, “then went to all the shortlisted locales to see how much those places had changed, and whether it was still possible to capture some of the same angles taken in the old photographs.”
The project, which took about four months from start to finish, then involved Khanna cutting the old photographs in ways specific to each landmark, so that a visual juxtaposition could be created. "It took multiple trips to each landmark and a lot of patience to end up with a satisfactory photo."
Khanna wanted to find an archive of old photographs that he could use, but even without one, he managed to find everything he wanted through extensive Goggling. Thus far, he has faced no copyright issues because of how old the photographs are.
The first time he picked up a digital camera, Khanna was sixteen.
"I learnt the basics of photography on a Nikon FM-10 SLR, and then grew to appreciate the value of film," said Khanna. "That’s translated into my own small collection of film cameras." One of his prized possessions is a Yashica TLR that he found in Chandni Chowk. "I now use a Canon 600D and take my camera everywhere.”
A self-described Delhi boy with a little bit of the Pind, Khanna says he takes photos because "I enjoy documenting and archiving things around me”.
At present, Khanna is a little more than halfway through the series, with a few more exciting photographs still to be posted. The young lawyer is constantly on the lookout for any old photos that have the potential for a visual juxtaposition.
"I shall definitely add to the collection if I do come across them.”
Parts of Old Delhi, Khanna discovered, have changed beyond recognition. ”Shahjahanbad has come far far away from its glory days," he said. "I still plan to visit again though. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck the next time.”
Khanna is yet to showcase this project in a gallery, though he is open to the idea. He hopes to collaborate with other artists who might be able to help him gain access to the city’s archives.
"I know my city better because of the project now," Khanna said, describing his Instagram journey. "I hope that anybody who sees these photographs also learns a little bit more about our Capital."